Bay Area Proud

Stranded By Storms, Neighbor Keeps Mountain Community Connected With Outside World Thanks to Zipline

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The Santa Cruz Mountains are an appealing place to live for those who are seeking a bit of distance from their neighbors. But when an atmospheric river roared through in early January, it helped to have a neighbor like Darrel Hardy as a safety umbrella nearby.

The first in a series of storms to punish the area this winter pushed an extraordinary amount of debris into and down Corralitos Creek. The debris plugged up the culvert running underneath the bridge on Grizzly Flat Road, forcing water to surge over the top. 

The bridge, now in danger of washing away, was the only route Hardy and six other families had to the outside world.

“It’s running a good two, two-and-a half-feet over the bridge and I can see already the retaining wall on the other side is already starting to compromise,” said Hardy. "I've never seen it just literally surging up like that. I told everybody, 'Look, they're forecasting more rains come tonight and this isn't looking good. I think we are going to lose this bridge.'"

Knowing what a blow that would be to his neighborhood, Hardy acted fast before the bridge collapsed. He raced to the store and bought supplies to construct a zipline across the creek.

The zipline Hardy installed became the community’s lifeline for several months, using it to transport items that one needs to live. 

“For me, the zipline was mandatory for all of us to get supplies in and out – gasoline cans, propane tanks, groceries, hauling garbage out, all that kind of stuff," Hardy said. "You try and live a normal life, but the main thing is being able to survive until things normalize."

But January’s rain storm was just one in an unrelenting season of storms in a historically wet winter for the Bay Area, so Hardy’s job helping his community wasn’t done once the bridge was fixed.

The series of storms had become a particular problem for two of Hardy’s neighbors: two 70-year-old widows whose road to their homes had washed out, forcing them to park their cars and walk up a steep, half-mile hill to get to their homes.

“I’ve had to backpack my food up,” Lynn Morse said. “And beer’s heavy,” she concluded with a laugh.

Lynn Fonseca was facing even more dire shortages.

“I ran out of firewood last week and my propane’s almost done," she said.

“I worry about these women,” Hardy said. “They’re up there by themselves.”

So, Hardy organized his neighbors into a work party one Sunday morning to begin the daunting task of repairing the women’s road – “Two Lynn Lane” Hardy calls it. They dumped truckloads of road base into the potholes and trenches to try to make the road passable by car. It’s a job that will take some time to complete, but Hardy says he is committed to getting the job done. It’s just what a neighbor does, he says.

“I've always been someone that wants to help people,” said Hardy. “It's the natural thing to do. It's not even the right thing to do. It's the natural thing to do.”

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